The Winter Queen

Some reviews come easily, some just take time, and others, well, others never see the light of day.

And I’ve been sitting on my thoughts on The Winter Queen for a while.

But I don’t want it to sit in my ‘draft’ pile any longer.

While I didn’t love the book, I was intrigued by it. First, the setting – Russia. Then the main character – Erast Fandorin. What a name. I think I might have picked up this book mostly on that great name. Boris Akunin explained:  “I took a bit from every attractive character in Russian literature”, yet he thinks that as Fandorin is “cool, he’s cold-blooded, so he’s very un-Russian”.Then, there’s the fact that The Winter Queen is the first of a series of 16 novels (13 have been written so far,  in different detective/crime styles like spy novels, conspiracy novels), which makes me wonder how different these books in the same series can be. Then there are his villains, who, as Akunin told the BBC World Book Club : “sometimes I’m not sure myself, who is right and who is wrong”.

“This is what interests me the most – this invisible border between the evil and the good.”

And then there’s Boris Akunin himself. I first heard of him from the BBC World Book Club (the podcast is available online but I’d suggest you read the book first as there is a huge spoiler. Yikes).

Boris Akunin isn’t Boris Akunin. That is the pen name of Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili, who also goes by the names Anatoly Brusnikin and Anna Borisova.

Akunin isn’t even a Russian name. It’s a Japanese word that somewhat means ‘villain’. Akunin, or rather Chkhartishvili, is an expert on Japan as well as a literary translator.

And there it is. A review that is not a review. Because I didn’t exactly say much about the book.

So why do I bother? Because, who knows, it might intrigue you too. And Akunin has far too much up his sleeve for people to be wandering around libraries and bookstores and bypassing his books.

Thanks for reading my not-review.


  1. I love the Fandorin mysteries, though I can understand folks have different tastes in mysteries. The Winter Queen is the first and last mystery to solely follow Fandorin; in many of the later books a narrator or second party (in some cases the villain) is observing Fandorin’s sleuthing. If you like Agatha Christie-style mysteries, I might recommend Murder on the Leviathan, the third in the series. I’m currently reading Coronation, which finds Fandorin solving a Romanov kidnapping right before Nicholas II becomes Tsar — it’s quite intriguing so far.
    Incidentally, Boris Akunin was getting quite a bit more press earlier this year as he was one of several activists in Russia speaking out against Putin’s run for president again.


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